Category Archives: Research & Analysis

4 Steps to Establish Evaluation SOPs

4 eval stepsAn evaluation plan is a roadmap to help organizations validate the impact of their work. In this past blog post, we describe our four-step evaluation process. Step 2 of this process involves creating or modifying data tools and systems. When establishing evaluation systems, it is important to create standard operating procedures, or SOPs.

An SOP is a step by step procedure that outlines necessary processes within an organization. SOPs actualize your organization’s processes into actionable tasks in a structured and uniform format. They are used to make sure staff are following the same process when completing an organizational activity. SOPs establish consistency and accountability among staff and improve efficiency and quality.

When it comes to evaluation, SOPs help to ensure data collection is valid and reliable and also help you avoid data errors.They provide structure and guidance to staff who may not focus on evaluation and data on a daily basis. SOPs equip them to support your organization’s evaluation work and integrate it into their day-to-day responsibilities. SOPs also help to mitigate the effect that staff changes and transitions may have on your evaluation activities. By having SOPs in place, you can introduce new staff to your evaluation procedures early on in their onboarding and training and improve the continuity and sustainability of your evaluation work.

Last spring we worked with the Center for Leadership Development (CLD) on an evaluation project and created SOPs for all of their evaluation tools and procedures. We worked with them to align the SOPs to the structure of other organizational procedures which helped them to integrate the SOPs successfully and smoothly across all programs. 

Here are four steps we completed with CLD that you can also use to get started with creating evaluation SOPs for your organization.

1. Create a list of the different procedures you want to document and systemize.

We recommend creating an SOP for all evaluation-related tools you utilize. These may include:

    • Data collection tools (surveys, assessments, academic data/data share agreements, registration/enrollment forms, etc.)
    • Databases and programs you use to store your data (Oracle, Apricot, etc.)
    • Data analysis and visualization programs (Excel, Tableau, SPSS, etc.)

2. Create a template or format that makes sense for your organization. 

We recommend that all of your SOPs include the following elements:

    • Purpose: Overview of why to follow the procedure
    • Responsibility: Indicate who is responsible for completing specific tasks outlined in the SOP; Make sure to indicate the JOB TITLE of the person responsible, rather than their name so there is no confusion in cases of staff turnover
    • Instructions: List all steps and tasks to complete when following the procedure
    • Timeline for completion: Indicate when to complete each task
    • Administration/Materials: Include a list of any materials, attachments, and references that staff should use when completing the procedure

Here is an example of a general SOP template:

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 9.25.13 PM

The SOPs for your data collection tools should include two distinct sections detailing the procedures for collecting and analyzing data. Both of those sections should include the elements listed above. 

3. Draft SOPs or delegate their creation to staff

assess-01You do not need to create all of your evaluation SOPs at one time. Create a prioritized list/schedule of which SOPs are most important to create first. To make the drafting process more manageable, consider training multiple staff members to create SOPs using the template. Make sure these staff members are familiar with the evaluation tools and systems. One staff member should be responsible for reviewing and approving all the evaluation procedures to check for consistency in formatting and structure. 

4. Train staff on following new SOPs 

Once you create your evaluation SOPs, make sure they don’t just sit on a shelf! The SOPs need to be used and followed consistently by all relevant staff. Provide training and guidance for your staff on the new SOPs. Point out how the activities and tasks fit within their day-to-day responsibilities.

At Transform Consulting Group, we know the importance of demonstrating the impact of your work. Whether you are just now beginning to evaluate your program or you already have an established evaluation plan in place, we would be happy to help you create SOPs to strengthen the sustainability and effectiveness of your evaluation activities. Contact us today for more information!

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2019 Year in Review

This year was another big year for Transform Consulting Group. In 2019, we were thrilled to once again work with a variety of clients and important causes across Indiana and Michigan. 

We are thankful for all that we accomplished as a team to help accelerate the impact of our clients in communities across the two states. We summarized a snapshot of the highlights from 2019 below. 

Building Capacity:

  1. We secured over $1.6 million in grants for clients and created development plans to increase and diversify funding
  2. We facilitated 8 strategic plans which included internal and external organization assessments, research, building consensus with stakeholders, and mapping out specific steps to achieve the goals. Many of these projects were community wide initiatives that involved a diverse group of partners utilizing a collective impact framework. 
  3. We shared our knowledge and expertise at over 15 trainings at conferences and more than 20 trainings with clients. 

Facilitating Evaluation, Research, & Analysis:

  1. We continue expanding our data visualization skills and created 31 data dashboards to make data user-friendly, accessible, and manageable for clients. View a few examples here.
  2. We completed 9 program evaluations that included setting clear goals, developing tools and systems, data analysis, and an evaluation plan.
  3. We developed 9 community needs assessment data reports to help organizations understand their community and target population to appropriately plan for and align programming and services.

Mobilizing Communities, Partners, & Systems:

  1. We created and disseminated 60 surveys for stakeholder feedback to help direct our clients’ next steps. 
  2. We’re passionate about Collective Impact and worked with Community Foundations and other partners across the state to identify and address big issues in their communities. 
  3. We helped launch a new state contract that connects a number of partners at the state and local level. 

Company Highlights: 

  • As a woman-owned business, it was a huge accomplishment to officially become a certified Women’s Business Enterprise
  • We increased our number of clients by over half in 2019. Of those clients, nearly half were brand new!
  • We were 2019 Big Data Visualization Challenge finalists for the 2nd year. The Challenge used data to highlight recommendations for improving health outcomes for Indiana mothers and infants. We were provided datasets on maternal health and infant mortality, and then tasked with creating a visualization solution. You can view the dashboard we created and our recommendations here
  • We expanded our reach with clients across Indiana and Michigan who represented so many different sectors in Education and Community Development including: 
    • Adult Education
    • Alternative Education
    • Child Welfare
    • College & Career Readiness
    • Domestic Violence
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Economic Development
    • Homelessness
    • Home Visiting
    • K-12 Education
    • School Counseling
    • Substance Abuse Prevention
    • Veteran Services
    • Youth Development

As we head into the New Year, we are grateful for the organizations who trust our team and partnered with us in 2019. We have exciting things ahead in 2020, and we would love to work with you! Do you have a clear plan for your upcoming year? Whether you’re looking to strengthen  your organization’s capacity, use your data to drive impact, or mobilize your community and partners to tackle big issues, we would love to help! Contact us to set up a call to talk further in the New Year.

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3 Tips For Managing Program Data

 Do you have a system for effectively and efficiently storing and monitoring program data? At Transform Consulting Group, we work with many clients who are required to report on program outcomes and impact, but they often lack systematic approaches to managing their data. We know data can drive program impact (check out this blog), but in order to use the data, you first have to collect and accurately report information. Managing Multiple Data Systems

One type of organization required to report on program outcomes and impact is Head Start. Head Start programs, at all levels (federal, state, local, and internal), are required to collect program data and report on it regularly. This data includes information about staff, students, families, facilities, maintenance, etc. The list goes on! Not only is data required for reporting, but ideally organizations are tracking data to evaluate their impact and inform program decisions. Currently, there is not an all inclusive system for Head Start programs to store and monitor this data, so programs are left to find and use multiple systems.  

Geminus Head Start in northwest Indiana sought our help to create a customized monthly report and interactive dashboard (see our dashboard examples here) that connects their data systems and equips their team to use the data to improve student and family outcomes. Along the course of our partnership, we came up with several tips to manage data that are helpful whether you’re a Head Start organization or other similar program wanting to effectively and efficiently manage data. 

1. Develop Procedures and Data Management Plans for Data Systems 

If you have a long list of data, several tools and systems are needed to track the information. To keep everything organized, we found it necessary to develop procedures around tools and systems. This creates consistent and efficient data entry.

Having procedures in place is especially helpful when hiring  new staff members or shifting responsibilities between teams. One example of a tool we use to manage several data systems is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). A SOP is applied to a specific tool, like a child assessment. The SOP outlines its own purpose and when to use it. It also explains who is responsible, related instructions about data entry or export, and timelines. 

2. Assign and Use Unique Identifiers

Similar data elements are often tracked across several systems. For example: a student’s name being used in attendance, assessment collection, and family engagement tracking. If organizations try to link data based on a name, there could be problems caused by inconsistent spelling or duplicate names (two people with the same name). A unique identifier (series of numbers and/or letters) matches program data with ease across many systems. This will help ensure efficient and accurate data reporting. 

Geminus Head Start uses PROMIS as a main data entry and management system. This system automatically assigns unique identifiers to students, families, programs, etc. These identifiers are then entered into other tracking systems during data entry. Look for a similar identification feature in your organization’s main data tracking system. 

3. Minimize Manual Spreadsheet Tracking

Staff often feel more comfortable developing their own spreadsheet to track organizational information related to their role. However, that’s one more source your team will need to keep track of when searching for and entering data. Manual entry also leads to inconsistencies in spelling and entry depending on the individual and time of entry. There are databases available that allow custom report building. PROMIS, the software Geminus Head Start uses, allows for custom report building. SurveyMonkey or Google Forms can also be used to build custom surveys or fillable forms. Custom reports have efficient features, such as drop down menus for consistent entry options. These reports can be built for several topic areas, but linked within one system creating a connection between common data elements (students, families, sites, etc.). 
Geminus meeting 3

We know these three tips are not limited, but they set your organization on a path for effective and efficient data collection. Do you need help gathering and connecting multiple data sets? Do you want to create customized dashboards to visualize benchmarks and filter data? Does your staff need trained on using data to make informed decisions? If you answer yes to any of these questions, let’s chat! We’d love to provide solutions to accelerate your impact through data.

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Using Data to Tell Your Story

We say we’re #datanerds at Transform Consulting Group. However, for a communication and marketing person like myself, I will admit that data intimidates me. I prefer using words and emotions to convey ideas rather than numbers and excel sheets. So, how does that translate to our data-driven work at TCG? 

In Nancy Duarte’s book “Data Story” she says, “Facts aren’t as memorable as stories.” She highlighted an experiment that revealed 5% of people remember individual statistics while 63% remember the stories. 

In our work – as an organization and for clients – we have to have both data and storytelling if we want to make an impact. If you search through our blogs, we have several data related posts (here, here, here, and here). We also have a whole marketing series (here, here, here, and here). This blog is bringing together those 2 worlds – with 5 tips for using data in your storytelling.  

5 Tips for Using Data to Tell Your Story

 

  1. Keep it simple. Numbers and data may seem far from simple at times, especially when you’re dealing with really complicated issues. The reality is though, most of your stakeholders are not technical experts. They don’t know the lingo. They don’t know your measurables. You don’t want to bog down your audience with so much “meat” that they can’t absorb anything. Simple is better. Be clear, straight to the point, and look at your data through the lens of an “everyday” person.
  2. Make it relatable. Why is the data important? Who does it impact? It’s hard for even the biggest #datanerd to get excited about an excel sheet full of numbers or a report with a bunch of charts. However, if you explain the implications of the data, people will connect. We like to call this the “so what?”

    What does it mean for your community when student graduation rates decline? How does it impact employers when there aren’t enough early childhood education programs available for working families? What does it mean for your community to have a high rate of child maltreatment? Don’t just spout off facts and figures, explain the why and significance of your data.

    Extra Tip: Know your audience. Know who you are talking to so you can shape your message in a way that relates to the person in front of you. Your data story should be very different for your potential client like a parent versus a potential funder or partner.
  3. Utilize clear graphs and slides. When surveying top executives from large organizations across the county, Duarte found the majority preferred simple visuals to get to the point. They requested a bar graph, pie chart or line graph. We create some pretty fancy data dashboards here at TCG, but we know that the most important data point needs to be the first thing you see. Don’t bury it with too many special features, graphics, or animations.  Also, be mindful of creating clear titles to describe your graphs and charts. Be intentional with the type of chart you have selected, including the colors.
  4. Structure your story. We learn from a young age that a story needs to have 3 components: a beginning, middle, and end. How does that translate when using data? The beginning of your story should highlight the pain point. Set the stage for what is the current reality and need. The “messy middle” as Duarte says, is where you highlight the obstacles or hurdles getting in the way of progress or impact. The end is where you present the solution.
  5. Make the data stick. How do you talk about the magnitude of the data? The data should connect to something familiar if you want your message to stick. If the numbers are great, express that clearly in your message and tone. If the numbers need improvement, then be direct and express disappointment. It is possible to generate emotions from numbers in your delivery. 

At Transform Consulting Group, we are passionate about the many causes our clients represent. We know your work is important. So, what’s next for you? Whether you’re struggling with gathering and analyzing data to inform decision making or struggling to use that data to craft your story of impact – we want to help! Let’s work together to turn your data into action. 

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Why Break Down Data?

When you’re using data to make decisions, are you also taking time to break down data to learn more? Perhaps you are struggling to understand the needs of different parts of the population you serve. Maybe you’re noticing different outcomes in different groups but don’t know why. When you break down data, you can see what’s hidden within your overall results. 

One important reason to break down data is to help your clients who are experiencing multiple adverse events. Our team at Transform Consulting Group worked with Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) to understand the challenges of people experiencing both homelessness and domestic violence. We took a close look at their data. Then we came up with recommendations on how to best meet the needs of this population.

A significant portion of individuals who are homeless have also experienced domestic violence. In Marion County, 21% of individuals in the Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) had lived in households with reported domestic violence (DV). DV-homelessness-data

Based on national best practices and local data, CHIP and its partners identified potential system and policy improvements. They gathered feedback from domestic violence survivors experiencing homelessness via surveys and focus groups. 

The data and research revealed the need for targeted public policy and legislative protections for this population. When domestic violence survivors leave their relationships, they face economic hardships that put them at risk for homelessness. One policy solution allows survivors to remain in their rental home after the perpetrator is removed from the lease.

Breaking down the data led to this policy recommendation that is specific to domestic violence survivors. This policy change goes beyond what’s relevant for all individuals experiencing homelessness.

In other instances, breaking down data can be particularly helpful to ensure you meet the needs of the most marginalized people. Are children from high-income families able to access your programming more easily than other children? Are your participants of color seeing the same gains as your white participants? Do those in rural areas achieve the same positive results as urban communities? Looking at data in this way can help you focus on equity for your vulnerable populations. 

Researching national best practices revealed that domestic violence survivors, in particular, benefit from meeting with advocates in locations other than their office. Survivors face transportation and other logistical barriers. This can mean it’s much easier if an advocate comes to their home or neighborhood.

There are more details on all the data and findings in the Report on Domestic Violence Survivors Experiencing Homelessness in Marion County that Transform Consulting Group prepared for CHIP. CHIP-DV-report-cover

No matter what your organization’s mission is, breaking down data can help you learn more about different segments of the population you’re serving. Do you see better outcomes when participants have been in your program for more than six months? Is your curriculum more effective for younger children?

In addition to breaking down your data, check out our other blogs on making sure you’re data literate and putting data into context

If you aren’t using data to look at segments of the population you serve, then you might be missing what is (or isn’t) working well in your program. Let us know if you need help with data analysis or program evaluation!

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How A Needs Assessment Can Support Your Head Start Program

Most organizations that receive federal or state funding and even private funding are required to complete some type of needs assessment. This might be part of their grant application or annual program update. The purpose of the needs assessment (which we talk more about here and here) is to help organizations align their services to meet the needs of their targeted population and geographic service area.

Head Start and Early Head Start grantees are one type of grant program that must complete a comprehensive needs assessment every five years as part of their grant application. They are also required to complete an annual needs assessment update. In addition to the local grantees, each state has a Head Start Collaboration Office. They too are required to complete an annual needs assessment based on federal priorities to inform their annual plan and funding priorities.Blog Image

Transform Consulting Group has worked with Head Start and Early Head Start programs at every level from the local grantee level to the state collaboration office and even the federal Office of Head Start. With these partners, we have helped with writing grant applications, managing data systems, completing strategic plans, supporting implementation of new grants, and of course completing needs assessments. Based on our breadth of experience with Head Start, we have some tips to share in how to best complete and leverage your Needs Assessment:

  1. Gather Quantitative Data

The 5-Year Community Assessment must include a variety of data points such as community demographics, data about Head Start eligible children and families, education, health, social services, nutrition, housing, child care, transportation, community resources, and the list goes on. During the other 4 years of the grant period, local grantees must do a Community Assessment Annual Update. This update includes any significant changes in data around key areas such as the availability of prekindergarten, child and family homelessness, and other shifts in demographics and resources.

  1. Gather Stakeholder Feedback

We’ve talked a lot about stakeholder engagement in past blogs (here and here). The 5-Year Community Assessment includes gathering input from community partners, parents, and staff. We do this through the use of surveys (electronic or paper), focus groups, and interviews. This is a great opportunity to hear from your key stakeholders, build buy-in and engagement, and strengthen existing relationships.

  1. Create Visually Appealing Needs Assessment Reports

We pride ourselves on creating visually appealing reports that are user-friendly for all audiences and talk about it in this blog. You can see examples of our Head Start needs assessment reports here and here. We have also taken these reports to create fact sheets about the need for services across different service areas or to summarize the impact / footprint of the Head Start and Early Head Start program.

In more recent years, we have started developing data dashboards that summarize the community needs assessment. Organizations are putting these dashboards on their website like this example here.  By doing this, Head Start programs can be a great resource in the community of comprehensive data about young children and families that other partners can use for planning purposes.Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 12.04.29 PM

  1. Share and Use Your Data

After your organization has invested all of this time and effort in completing your needs assessment you want to make sure you use it to drive programming and services. This is where having a visually appealing report, some infographic facts and / or a data dashboard are so important. It makes sharing them internally with your staff and parents, as well as externally with partners, that much easier! We love to share this information at policy council meetings, family events, and community partner meetings.  

Does this process sound overwhelming to you? Do you feel like you are in data overload? We can help! You don’t have to do this alone.

Head Start programs, like many federally funded programs, are tasked to track and monitor a lot of data and information especially for compliance purposes. Evidence can be seen of that in the reporting requirements of the needs assessments, along with other state and federal regulations. Most Head Start programs do not have one primary database, so data is often stored in many ways across several systems and staff members. TCG can help review these systems, provide recommendations, assist in analyzing data, and offer training to staff about data systems and best practices around data collection and analysis.

We have the Head Start knowledge and the data expertise to support your needs assessment and data management needs. Consider how TCG can help your Head Start program today. Contact us to learn more!

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4 Steps to Complete a Feasibility Study

Too often non-profits and government agencies immediately begin implementing a new program or service area. They see a need with their clients or a gap in the existing services, so they elect to help meet that need. This all sounds good, right? The challenge is that there has not been enough time to complete a comprehensive planning and assessment process to develop the program or service. One service we offer our clients to meet this need is completing a feasibility study.plan-act-do-study-cycle4

We follow the Plan-Do-Study-Act or “PDSA” continuous quality improvement cycle (learn more in this blog).  We help clients assess, design, launch and evaluate programs and services in order to meet community needs and apply the latest research. When following this approach, we most often find that clients tend to skip the first step “Plan” and jump straight to “Do” as mentioned above. We work to help our clients thoughtfully plan out their services, programs, and interventions before they implement them to get the impact and desired change they are working towards.

Implementing a feasibility study is a great tool to complete a thoughtful planning process. A well designed feasibility study will help an organization assess 1) if what they are thinking of implementing is possible and 2) how to consider implementing it.

Shoes at ArrowsWe worked with a group of community leaders in Jay County to complete the feasibility of converting an old elementary school building into an early childhood center. Like many rural communities, Jay County has a declining population that has impacted their local schools in continuing to operate multiple school buildings, which has resulted in school consolidations and closures. At the same time, their rural community also struggles with attracting new employers due to a lack of child care for a growing workforce. Their community leaders had the idea of converting a closed elementary school into an early childhood center but wanted assistance in completing a feasibility study first.

4 Steps to Complete a Feasibility Study

 

1. Market Analysis

During this step you want to gather key information about your targeted population. This includes collecting demographic information from online public sources. This helps create a composite of your targeted community and population. We also suggest completing a landscape assessment to identify any other organization providing similar services or working with the target population. Lastly, it’s important to gather some qualitative feedback from various key stakeholders in the community to determine what they think the needs and gaps are as well as build community will for possibly launching a new service. This can be done through focus groups, surveys, and key informant interviews.

The purpose of this step is to ensure that there is in fact a need for your proposed program/ service. Check out this blog for more insight on completing a community needs assessment!

2. Program Design

During this step you will want to complete some research on your targeted service area. For Jay County, we are gathering the latest research on early childhood program models and services that lead to the desired outcomes they are seeking. Our landscape scan is also looking at existing program models in the community so as to not duplicate existing options but to consider complementary program models that will meet the needs of communities. If you are seeking external funding, you may want to adopt or align your program around research-based models that have demonstrated outcomes. This will provide confidence to potential funders in implementing a new program.

The purpose of this step is to determine the best model and design for implementing your program. Check out this blog for more tips on finding evidence-based programs.

3. Business Model

The next step is to develop the business model for operating the program. During this phase of the feasibility study you will gather important financial information that will help you understand what it will cost to implement the program and potential sources of funding. You should create a budget and possibly complete some financial forecasting to show start-up costs and when the program would “break even” or be self-sustaining. This step should also assess the operations behind implementing the program, which includes the staffing model, materials and services, training, facility, technology, equipment and other program needs.

With Jay County, we completed walk-throughs of three possible locations with an architect and construction group to inform the best location to operate an early childhood center. This informed the potential capacity to serve children, the staffing needs and ultimately budget the break down for start-up costs versus ongoing maintenance costs. The purpose of this step is to think through all of the components needed to successfully implement the program.

Check out this blog for some tips to establish financial goals.

4. Communications Plan

The last (and sometimes forgotten) step is to develop a communications strategy if you decide to launch the new program. After spending all of this time assessing and planning the design of the program, you want to ensure that the targeted audience knows about the program and enrolls/ participates. The communications plan would include determining the current knowledge base in the community, so there might need to be some education and awareness about why you are providing this service especially if it is new and different.

In Jay County, we are created a PR Campaign through a series of op-eds penned by different key stakeholders (employers, teachers, judge, doctor, etc.) in the community all talking about why expanding early childhood is critical to meet the community’s needs. Your communications plan should include the different channels (social media, newspaper, radio, text, mailings, etc.) that residents use to gather information. In a parent survey (our potential client for early childhood services), we asked them where they get their information and their preferred method of communication. Based on this assessment, develop a start-up marketing plan and community education plan for the proposed new program that will meet participation goals and engage the key stakeholders and partners in the community.

Check out this blog for tips on creating an op-ed campaign and this blog for getting media attention.

Completing a feasibility study may seem unnecessary or slow down your timeline, but the time you invest up front will see a return in a well thought out model that will be set up for success and to accomplish your goals. Completing intentional design through the PDSA model is a critical differentiator for Transform Consulting Group and many clients point specifically to this process improving their own internal operations which accelerates impact. Contact us if we can help you complete a feasibility study!

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Learn About Indiana’s Youngest Children with the 2019 ELAC Annual Report!

2019-elac-annual-reportIndiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) released its 2019 Annual Report. Each year, ELAC completes a needs assessment on the state’s early childhood education system and then recommends solutions.

We want to share some quick highlights and key takeaways from this year’s needs assessment.  ELAC focuses on ensuring early childhood education is accessible, high-quality, and affordable to all families. 

Are Children Ages 0-5 Receiving High-Quality Care?

  • Of the 506,257 children in Indiana ages 0-5, 64% need care because all parents are working. This includes both working parents who are single and households where both parents work outside the home. Figure 9
  • Of those children who need care, only 40% are enrolled in known programs. The other three fifths of children receive informal care—from a relative, friend, or neighbor.
  • Of the young children who need care, only 16% are enrolled in high-quality programs. A high-quality early childhood education program not only ensures that children are safe, but also supports their cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development. 

Are Children in Vulnerable Populations Receiving High-Quality Care?

  • Indiana makes funding assistance available for early childhood education for children from low-income families.
  • Indiana does not collect data on children in other vulnerable populations, such as children in foster care and children affected by the opioid epidemic.
  • Overall, due to lack of data, Indiana does not know the kind of care received by children in vulnerable populations.

What Trends Are There in Early Childhood Education?

  • Since 2014, Indiana has made progress by enrolling more of the children who need care in known early childhood education programs. 
  • Over the past 5 years, Indiana has consistently enrolled fewer infants and toddlers than preschoolers in known and high-quality programs. Figure 31
  • Compared to 2012, more early childhood education programs are participating in Paths to QUALITYTM, Indiana’s quality rating and improvement system.
  • In addition, significantly more programs have earned high-quality designations of either Level 3 or Level 4 since 2012.

What Trends Are There in the Early Childhood Education Workforce?

  • Indiana’s early childhood education workforce is more diverse than the K-12 workforce but not as experienced.
  • Nationally, the early childhood education workforce earns $4-$7 less per hour than the average hourly wage of all occupations.

What is the Unmet Need in the Early Childhood Education System?

  • There has been a persistent need in early childhood education programs for more available spots for infants and toddlers.
  • Despite overall improvements, there are still some communities in Indiana with no high-quality early childhood education programs.
  • The tuition cost of high-quality early childhood education programs remains unaffordable, and the available financial assistance for low-income families is insufficient.

How Can I Find Out More?

  • Read the 2019 ELAC Annual Report, which includes statewide data on Indiana.
  • ELAC also publishes an interactive dashboard that allows you to learn more about specific data points. You can also easily present data to stakeholders.
  • The interactive dashboard contains both state- and county-level data. Use the map to select your county, and hover over the data to learn more!

2019-elac-interactive-dashboard

Transform Consulting Group is proud to support ELAC’s work by pulling this needs assessment and interactive report together!

Does your organization, agency, or coalition need to better understand your community or a key issue, but you don’t know how to get started? We are skilled in collecting quantitative data from multiple data sources and pulling it together in a visually-appealing, user-friendly report. Contact us to learn how we can help you complete your next needs assessment!

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Are You Data Literate?

Recently the TCG team participated in a data visualization challenge at the Indy Big Data Conference, and this experience has led me to writing a blog on data literacy.  What is data literacy? Merriam Webster defines being literate as “having knowledge or competence”, and being competent with data is a foundational skill we all need in this age of big data.

Now, you don’t have to love math or know how to write code to be data literate. What you need to be comfortable doing is asking what, how, why, and so what of data.

  • What data is being collected? (e.g., age, county, number of individuals with a college degree)
  • How is the data being collected? (e.g., application, agency records, census survey)
  • Why? Especially when it comes to data analysis, don’t be afraid to ask why. (e.g., Why did you focus on this subset of the population? Why were those data points analyzed?)
  • So what? (e.g., How does the number of individuals without a college degree impact our strategy to address this issue?)    

For TCG’s presentation (check it out here), we reviewed multiple datasets provided by the Indiana Management Performance Hub. We had to learn what each variable meant, how the values were determined or collected, and why those variables were important to those data sources. Figuring out the data meant learning about workforce development measures and industry codes. Analysis of the data involved selecting certain data to focus on and incorporating different views and additional data to answer the questions we had. Listing our recommendations answered the “so what” for the data we chose to analyze and present.

Data presentation

Data literacy is very important to the data visualization world as well.  Before making the data “pretty” with charts or data visualization software (like Tableau which we featured in this blog), you have to know your data and know your metrics.  That way when you see your dashboard or charts showing 1,000 current donors with a 25% retention rate from last year, you will know if that is correct. Programs like Tableau (which imports your data to visualize) can’t tell you if you’re creating the right chart with the right variables. It takes the same level of critical thinking that is applied to the data itself.       

Common Mistakes with Data Visualization:

  • Not spot checking data to make sure things are correct (such as population totals).
  • Too much data. More is not always better, and lots of data can be overwhelming and may take away from the goal of the analysis.
  • Selecting the wrong variables. A chart can be created to compare apples to oranges, but it may not be of any value.Data Literacy Tableau
  • Not using percentages when comparing groups with different totals. This is one I see quite often and is a reminder to always question data. In the example below, Marion County (center of map) looks like it has the most young children and the most young children in poverty because Marion County has the largest population. If you look at percent of young children in poverty, other counties show just as high of a percentage as Marion County.
  • Lacking context. Without knowing the source of the data or data totals, the statistics may be less convincing. Industry knowledge is also important to context in order to visualize the most valuable data and to answer “So what?”.  

Not sure how comfortable you are with data? Start with your own! Ask questions and see what you can uncover. Check out some of our favorite sources of data that can add to your analysis. As you dig in, Transform Consulting Group is ready to assist with our evaluation, research, and strategic planning services as well as data visualization training and products. Contact us today to ask questions and learn more!

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4 Tips for Getting Started with Tableau

Have you ever seen beautiful charts or dashboards that make the data “pop” in the report or presentation and wondered how could you do that? At Transform Consulting Group, we have made a lot of charts and graphs to help our clients evaluate their programs and understand important information in a way that is easy to digest. We work to find the most efficient ways to assist our clients with the data that they need to make informed, timely decisions. 2016 Percent of Annual Income a family pays for high-quality careOne way to do this is staying current with data analysis and visualization software.

The data visualization software that we are crushing on these days is Tableau. It is essentially an accelerated version of “pivot tables”.  If any of you are familiar with Excel, then you know pivot tables. A pivot table is a tool that we use to determine the relationship between two or more data points. For example, when we were working with TeenWorks, a college and career readiness program, we wanted to see if their students are enrolling and persisting in college. Then, we might want to dig deeper in understanding who the students are that are not persisting, what schools are they enrolled in, what type of school is it (public or private, 2-year or 4-year), what is their major, and what is their gender and other socioeconomic statistics.

These additional data points help tell the story of what change is occurring and how that could impact the program model, partnership development, target clients, professional development, and so many other factors. Tableau helped our team answer these questions and more to better understand the relationship of our client’s program to its intended outcomes.pg 19


Recently, Transform Consulting Group used Tableau to complete a statewide needs assessment on Indiana’s youngest children ages 0-5 by pulling together data from multiple agencies and partners. The analysis resulted in the Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee’s (ELAC) 
2019 Annual Report. The intended audience for the report are policymakers who do not have a lot of time to read technical reports. Tableau equipped our team with the tools to create a visually-appealing report that draws attention to the key findings.

These are our top four tips of getting started with Tableau:

  1. Use Tableau support. There are many support options through Tableau. One option is the Tableau Community, which allows users to connect and ask or answer questions for each other. This can be a quick way to find answers to a common problem or question that users have. For example, we were havProjected Employment Needsing difficulty with one of our state maps, and Tableau Community had a solution that we were able to implement.
  2. Another option is to contact a Tableau consultant through Tableau. A consultant can provide customized personal training and guidance, which might be especially helpful for a new staff person using Tableau and/or a special project (like a dashboard). The consultant won’t do the work for you but is available along the way for further questions and guidance as you complete your project.  
  3. Organize your data. Tableau can be picky about how the original data is organized and certain charts require different data formatting. Before getting started, it is helpful to organize your data into one spreadsheet. Transform Consulting Group prefers to use Google Sheets because it allows multiple people to work in a document and view changes real time, but Excel or Numbers can also work.
  4. Work with a Tableau expert. Your project might be beyond the capacity (time and knowledge) of your current team, so partnering with a group or individual who has used Tableau might be a more efficient and effective solution.

If your organization needs help with analyzing and visualizing your data, contact Transform Consulting Group for a free consultation!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. We were not asked by Tableau to write this post. This is our own opinion.

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